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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Montana State University
  • Frank J Stewart
  • (404) 894-5819
Award Date:07/08/2020
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 395,476
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 395,476
  • FY 2020=$395,476
Start Date:03/01/2021
End Date:02/29/2024
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.050
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Collaborative Research: Nitrous oxide reduction in oxygen minimum zones: an understudied but critical loss term in ocean greenhouse gas cycling
Federal Award ID Number:2022991
DUNS ID:625447982
Parent DUNS ID:079602596
Program:Chemical Oceanography
Program Officer:
  • Simone Metz
  • (703) 292-4964

Awardee Location

Awardee Cong. District:00

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Montana State University
Cong. District:00

Abstract at Time of Award

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a gas produced by microbes in both aquatic and terrestrial environments, and, like other greenhouse gases, it contributes to global warming. Furthermore, N2O can destroy ozone, a gas responsible for protecting the earth from dangerous ultraviolet radiation. In the ocean, N2O production is largely controlled by the amount of available dissolved oxygen, with more N2O being produced under low oxygen concentrations; however, when no oxygen is available, a scenario referred to as anoxia, microbes in the ocean switch from producing N2O to consuming N2O. In recent years, it has become evident that zones of low oxygen are expanding in some areas of the oceans, and this has raised concern that more N2O will be produced. If this occurs, more N2O will be emitted to the atmosphere, and will lead to further global warming and ozone destruction. Because of this, research has largely focused on understanding how much N2O is produced in the ocean under low oxygen conditions. If, however, anoxic zones also increase in size, this could act to balance out, at least to some degree, the predicted increase in N2O production caused by the expansion of zones where oxygen is present but in low concentrations. This study aims to simultaneously measure N2O production and consumption, in both low oxygen and anoxic zones and identify the microbes responsible for N2O production and consumption. Our results will: 1) lead to a much better understanding of how N2O consumption in anoxic zones could help to balance out an increase in N2O production if low oxygen zones in the ocean continue to expand, 2) help to inform models aimed at predicting oceanic N2O production and emissions to the atmosphere under future ocean conditions, and 3) allow us to better understand the microbes involved in N2O production and consumption. Our study will support a postdoc and undergraduate students who will work at the interface of marine chemistry and community genomics. The PIs plan to specifically consider applications from underrepresented minorities and students at institutions with limited opportunities. The PIs also plan a number of other educational/outreach programs ranging from teacher-training workshops, teacher internships, and academic and public lecture series. The oceanic production of the potent greenhouse and ozone destroying gas nitrous oxide (N2O) increases as dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations transition from oxic to hypoxic. Marine DO concentrations have decreased globally with climate change and oceanic hypoxic zones have expanded and predicted to continue expanding. This increase is cause for concern that N2O production in the ocean will increase in the future which would lead to higher emissions to the atmosphere. As a result, much research has focused on quantifying the oxygen thresholds that correspond to large increases in N2O production. In contrast, relatively few studies have aimed to quantify the capacity for net N2O consumption, resulting from microbial N2O reduction to N2 under anoxic conditions, to buffer against predicted N2O production increases if anoxic zones expand in conjunction with hypoxic zones. To this end, this study aims to simultaneously quantify N2O production and consumption from oxic-hypoxic-anoxic water column zones, in order to determine the potential for N2O consumption to counteract predicted increases in N2O production. Our field work be conducted in Saanich Inlet, a British Columbian fjord which is an ideal natural laboratory for our study, as it is characterized by a well-established oxycline and anoxic zone. Specifically, we aim to 1) measure bulk N2O concentrations, and, using 15N tracer techniques, quantify N2O production and consumption rates as DO concentrations decrease from oxic to anoxic conditions, 2) quantify the magnitude by which N2O consumption in the anoxic zone balances increased N2O production in the overlying hypoxic region, and 3) definitively link observed N2O production and consumption rates to the microorganisms mediating this process, focusing specifically on distinguishing N2O consumption via denitrifier (NO3- to N2) versus non-denitrifier (N2O to N2 only) taxa. Ultimately, our results will provide quantitative information on N2O consumption rates over fluctuating ocean conditions, thereby helping constrain models of oxygen effects on net N2O production and ocean-to-atmosphere greenhouse gas fluxes. Furthermore, this work will identify the taxonomic breadth of microbes capable of N2O reduction and their linkage to actual N2O reduction rates, thereby providing a quantitative understanding of whether or not the detection of specific bio-signatures is predictive of marine N2O dynamics. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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